Practicing Insight on your own
Life has many ailments which can be traced back to one essential and persistent problem: to acknowledge and accept the truth of life-experience as it really is.
For all the diverse shapes, appearances, and symptoms that may be perceived on the surface the Buddha has discovered, given, and explained an all-round cure, sati, which treats the root-cause of our not being able to make sense of anything without restricting the frame of view or outlook to a limited aim and purpose. Mindfulness (sati) is the vehicle and the fuel for the development of liberating wisdom which can investigate, examine, and know reality without touching it, without changing truth whilst hoping to find it.
But what is sati and what can it achieve in truth? This must be investigated and found out by learning how to apply it in one's own life-experience.
This little book is packed to the brim with the most practical and substantial advice which should definitely be made use of for directing one's own practice. It is an accurate and reliable guide which can be referred to in solving the problems that may arise in the course of the development of insight, continuously and successive levels.
This quality is hard to come by, especially for Westerners who have no contact with living Buddha-dhamma. The book is too valuable a possession for the reader who has no intention to practise but only to read, because only by practice will its unfailing precision be appreciated. Its true value is the level of truth expressed by the ideas that are put down here for anyone who can grasp an inkling of their depth of meaning and then apply them to enhance his own practice. Then it will be a constant reminder, spur, and encouragement to develop the practice on the right lines of Vipassanā.
The translation has been done faithfully and conscientiously in an attempt to express the different levels of understanding employed by the venerable Acharn (teacher) in his distinct and easily comprehensible way of conveying the nature of that truth which exists everywhere. If the translation is found to be lacking in any way, it is the fault of the translators, and we take responsibility for standing between the author and the reader.
Indavīro Bhikkhu Jitamāro Bhikkhu
Nowadays the condition of Thai society has changed very much and for many reasons. One of the results is that people part from the homes of their parents to settle down on their own. The economic situation in the new households is not well balanced. They spend more than they earn, so they must try to increase their income. From the past of an agricultural society we have come to an industrial society with all its competition and the hasty hurry of going to school and attending to the duties of building up a business. The present society is materialistic. The need for material things is increasing; there is never the word 'enough'. Powerful desires force people work relentlessly for the sake of satisfying all their needs. This is the state of affairs of society and everybody in the present time. This development keeps people away from the temple, which is the public centre for the cultivation of dāna, sīla, bhāvanā (giving, virtue, meditation) that can lead everybody into good and virtuous ways.
People today are just like birds. Early in the morning they fly out of the nest to find food in order to fill the hungry mouths and empty stomachs left at home. In the evening they return tired and exhausted to the nest. Out in the morning, back at night, this is the duty in daily life. Especially for the people who live in flats and many-storied buildings having rooms like bird's nests. Then this is even more obvious.
For this reason, the minds of the people become rigid and tense and the people become selfish, lacking reason in whatever they do. They follow their whims and fancies, lacking sati to keep them from creating situations which would otherwise be impossible. Although our country embraces the Buddhist religion, such things can happen and it is likely to grow even worse, because the society is turned upside down. Even the five precepts are losing influence and will soon be forgotten.
At present the people suffer from mental derangement neuroses. No matter whether they are highly educated, having a university degree, or industrialists, bankers, businessmen, politicians, or practising any other profession, they are all more or less neurotic. We may not be neurological specialists, but if we consider the reasons in the present, that will be enough to know why more and more people become neurotic. Especially for people in the big cities it is very obvious. They no sooner wake up in the morning than the mind is already tense and rigid. Children as well as grown-up people, they all must hurry up to catch a bus and get on in pursuing education, business, duties or buying breakfast. When they get stress, they are not open-minded and lose their temper easily. When they arrive at the office, they encounter problems with unsatisfactory colleagues or the work itself. This makes the mind even more tense. When they return home, they face the household- and family problems again, and the neurotic strain still increases. When they lie down to sleep, again they think about problems, think about the occupation, about money and the many other things of tomorrow. The mind, the nerves and the brain, which want to relax naturally by sleeping, have to go on working. These are precisely the problems of the sort that make us more neurotic day in, day out. Therefore:
A handbook for practising "Vipassanā-kammatthāna on your own" would be useful for those people who have no opportunity to go to a Temple or meditation center where they could practice with a teacher. And also for those who have too many duties at home, whose daily life is restricted to the house, or for sick and old people who are still attached to their children and grand-children or take care of the house. They can use this book as a handbook in the practice, beginning with 10 minutes, 20 or 30 minutes, alternating sitting and walking as long as they feel able. They should not compel themselves too much. Do it with faith, with a joyful mind; and relax, so that the tense and rigid mind will be abated and relieved, and the mind becomes calm and content. Then happiness will arise out of that peace and you will understand how to put aside the many problems of life. You will become happy in body and mind and gain the strength to fight the problems of life effectively, business affairs as well as the confused, troublesome circumstances, the poisonous pollution of the environment. Progress in life will be the result, and this will be the strength of the nation in the future.
TO THE WESTERN READERS
The situation described in the foreword is very well known in the West, whereas in Asia it has become evident only recently. The almost world-wide destruction of natural environments a healthy mental conditions is a truism. But why does anybody not learn from the mistakes of others and try to escape these mistakes? The answer is that we are not used to relying upon ourselves, but keep looking to other people, hoping to be presented with a solution that will release us from the necessity of understanding our own life.
The Lord Buddha used to warn people not to believe what he said without making sure whether it was true or not. He was not eager to persuade people to change their confession and accept his religion; but he was anxious for people to comprehend his pointing to a reality that cannot be found in books or sermons, because it is already there before a word is spoken. It can only be known by personal realization.
You should not look at this book as another Buddhist reader. If you come across things or statements that you don't understand, it shows that you must practise. When you follow the instructions contained herein, you will develop natural wisdom, and you will understand without having need of more books. If you practise honestly, you will understand by yourself, understand in a way that makes you free. This was the purpose of writing it.
I would like to acknowledge the people who have brought this piece of Dhamma within reach of English-speaking readers. The translators, a Thai monk and a German monk, have co-operated well and produced a satisfactory result according to my purpose. Nai Thanong, a disciple of long standing, gave a helping hand where it was needed. Phra George of Wat Mahadhat, Bangkok, read the manuscript and improved on the English idioms.